The MIHS Black Student Union (BSU) sponsored a Zoom webinar titled “Toward Inclusive Community” on Wednesday, Feb. 2.
Hosted by ONE MI and Do the Work MI, the event featured various speakers who discussed the history of redlining and racial covenants on Mercer Island and how residents can make neighborhoods more inclusive.
“[The webinar] covered a lot of Seattle history of segregation, racial covenants and redlining neighborhoods, and I think that was important information to spread to the viewers of the webinar, especially those who aren’t familiar with this issue,” BSU public relations coordinator Brooks Kahsai said. “There was a big focus on the covenants restricting Black residents to very specific areas of Seattle in the mid-late 1900s, primarily the Central District.”
The webinar started off with a presentation from University of Washington students Sophia Dowling, Jazzlyn Woods and Nicholas Boren, who are all a part of the UW Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project.
Dowling, Woods and Boren talked about their research on redlining and real-estate discriminatory restrictions in the Seattle area.
The presentation then transitioned to Monty Smith and Chase Pennington, both representatives of real estate company John L. Scott.
Smith and Pennington discussed a website that is not yet open to the public, but once published will allow homeowners to check if there are any restrictive covenants on their property, and how to make modifications if there are.
However, while these speakers were highly informative, the webinar was far from perfect. BSU members did not have a chance to speak during the presentation, and as a result the webinar lacked young, minority voices.
“BSU had a cameo for the meeting from our vice president as planned, but there weren’t any other panelists representing equity groups from MIHS or neighboring high schools. Also, I think more time could’ve been directed toward discussing today’s issues with racial inclusivity and how we can improve for the future,” Kahsai said.
“Six of the seven panelists were white, and considering the nature of this discussion, this would have been a great opportunity to have more diversity. Regardless, I found the discussion to be very informative and a step in the right direction for sure.”
MIHS students should be on the lookout for more BSU events about redlining in the near future. Also, anyone wanting to get more involved with the content discussed in the webinar can visit https://depts.washington.edu/covenants.